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Late on Friday afternoon while we were all tucking into the World Cup, Celtic confirmed the signing of Odsonne Edouard on a permanent, four-year deal.
In a statement on the club website, the Scottish champions stated that the deal was “the biggest transfer in Celtic’s history” – suggesting that the amount paid for the 20-year-old Frenchman surpassed the £6 million paid for Chris Sutton in 2000.
However, before we hang up the French bunting and throw on some Daft Punk we should perhaps ask an important question: is this young striker actually worth this amount of money?
Naturally, the most obvious metric we should be using to determine just how good Edouard is as a Celtic striker is his ability to score goals. And although the French striker only notched up nine league goals this season, that’s largely down to the fact that he only started 12 of the club’s 38 league games.
When we break that down into how many goals he crammed into his relatively limited time on the pitch we actually find an exceptional goalscorer desperate to prove his worth with an extended run in the team.
For example, Edouard’s goals per 90 ratio in the Scottish Premiership stands at an impressive 0.73. That’s better than every player in the division aside from Hibernian’s own star goalscorer, Jamie Maclaren, who finished on 0.78. However this is still notably higher than Kris Boyd (0.64), Leigh Griffiths (0.64) or Moussa Dembele’s (0.54) returns for the campaign.
When we look at the graph above we can see a selection of the best goalscorers in the league ranked by their goals per 90 minutes figures and then alongside them they have their xG per 90 ratios. Since xG (expected goals) essentially means how many goals they should be scoring we can basically note which strikers are scoring more or less than their expected return.
As we can see, Edouard is once again one of the top achievers in the division in this regard. The 20-year-old averaged an xG per 90 of 0.61 in the league this season but actually had a conversion rate of 0.73. Simply put, this means he tended to score more often than he perhaps should have. While, in contrast, both Dembele and Alfredo Morelos had a higher xG than goals per 90 ratio, suggesting they didn’t tend to prove nearly as clinical in front of goal.
It’s also worth noting here just how low Scott Sinclair is on this graph. The English forward ended up finishing as Celtic’s top goalscorer in the league this season but as we can see his goals (0.48) and xG (0.36) per 90 are way off the other three Celtic forwards on the list.
Another aspect of Edouard’s game that is clearly quite valuable to Rodgers and his squad is the manner in which the young forward can play on either the left of attack or up front as a traditional no.9.
When we take a look at Edouard’s average positioning this season and compare it to Sinclair and Dembele’s we can see huge similarities between where each player tends to play on the pitch.
For example, Dembele plays as a lone striker but tends to drift to the left of attack. As we can see from the middle heat map that’s exactly that Edouard does as well. Sinclair, naturally, hugs the touchline far more than the other two but it isn’t a huge contrast from where Edouard tends to play his game. All three forwards enjoy cutting in from the left – to varying degrees – and finding a direct route to goal.
This could prove pivotal to the makeup of Celtic’s squad over the next 12 months. After a troublesome campaign, we might find Sinclair departing the club for a move down south after struggling to hold down his first team spot. And, inevitably, Dembele is likely to once again enjoy a whole roster of bids from around Europe.
However, if Rodgers decides to sell one of these players he knows the young Edouard can fill a hole in either role. Whether that be as a lone striker or as a more direct winger on the left wing – much like James Forrest’s role on the right during this past season.
Now that we know what Edouard can do on the pitch we should consider the economic benefit of Celtic signing a player that should undoubtedly get better and more valuable with age.
Rodgers recently denied that the striker’s buy-out clause was £7 million, suggesting that it may be even more. However, any deal worth around £10 million would never be a flat fee of such a large amount. Naturally, Celtic’s deal for the 20-year-old will involve a number of clauses that may top a figure of that amount one day, but only after Edouard has reached the standard set by the club.
Even if Celtic did end up forking over £8-9 million then that would only be £3-4 million more than they paid for Olivier Ntcham last summer and he has since proved his worth tenfold since then. And let’s not forget that at such a young age Edouard could end up being worth two or three times whatever the Scottish champions end up paying for him.
Essentially, Edouard fits into Celtic’s transfer policy of buying young, developing them into future stars and then selling to the highest bidder once they reach a level of maturity in their career. Very few players have arrived at Celtic with as much talent at such a young age as Edouard and although he may have cost a fair amount he does undoubtedly fit into a strategy that has served Celtic well for quite some time now.